By M. S. Kempshall
This study offers a major reinterpretation of medieval political thought by examining one of its most fundamental ideas. If it was axiomatic that the goal of human society should be the common good, then this notion presented at least two conceptual alternatives. Did it embody the highest moral ideals of happiness and the life of virtue, or did it represent the more pragmatic benefits of peace and material security? Political thinkers from Thomas Aquinas to William of Ockham answered this question in various contexts. In theoretical terms, they were reacting to the rediscovery of Aristotle's Politics and Ethics, an event often seen as pivotal in the history of political thought. On a practical level, they were faced with pressing concerns over the exercise of both temporal and ecclesiastical authority - resistance to royal taxation and opposition to the jurisdiction of the pope. In establishing the connections between these different contexts, The Common Good questions the identification of Aristotle as the primary catalyst for the emergence of 'the individual' and a 'secular' theory of the state. Through a detailed exposition of scholastic political theology, it argues that the roots of any such developments should be traced, instead, to Augustine and the Bible.